Tuesday 3 March 2020

Ryuko Volume 2 by Eldo Yoshimizu: Pulp Crime & International Intrigue

Ryuko is back to finish the story that began in Volume 1, which fittingly, ends with a bang. The themes of pulp crime storytelling are ever-present, along with a healthy dose of international intrigue, helping to elevate the book from being mere yakuza “bad girl” fiction. While not an overly complicated plot, Eldo Yoshimizu’s unique and hypnotic art is enough to keep you transfixed from page to page.

Ryuko Volume 2 begins with a confrontation between some of Ryuko’s gang and a terrorist group at the docks of Yokohama. Sasori – one of Ryuko’s female lieutenants – and Nikolai – the former solider and Soviet-Afghan War vet – find themselves held up at gunpoint by an armed group called “The Militia Without Borders.” Their leader reveals himself to be Ahmad Harim, the Afghan boy that Nikoklai befriended back in the 1980s. Not only that, he had a brief relationship with a pint-sized Ryuko, whose father brought her along as he smuggled weapons from Pakistan to the Mujahadeen. Harim actually has deep ties to the American government, which are revealed in the following pages.

Showing up to save the day, Ryuko confronts Harim and discovers that a third-party might be to blame for their hostilities – the Sheqing Ban, a vicious Chinese triad. The action moves to Yokohama Chinatown, where Situ Zi – the granddaughter of the triad’s leader – is having dinner with her father. Guns blazing, Ryuko crashes the dinner and demands information from Situ Zi, namely where her mother is being held.

Much to Ryuko’s surprise, her mother – Shoryuhi – is not being held hostage by the Yajima Yakuza Gang, but has a much more active and troublesome place within international organized crime. Questing for answers, Ryuko tracks her long lost mother down in a Buddhist temple, where she’s become something akin to a nun. There, she receives information about not only her own past, but about a mysterious organization called “Black Glory.”

Meanwhile, the Yajima Gang, who’s secretly been working for the Sheqing Ban, is visited by its leader, the enigmatic Situ Long. He hires them to stage an attack on his granddaughter –  Situ Zi –  and blame it on her own father. The Yajima Gang’s boss isn’t quite sure what to make of this order, but after a brutal demonstration by Situ Long, he shuts up and follows orders.

After a grueling ambush, Situ Zi escapes the Yajima Gang’s clutches and inflicts some casualties of her own. She retreats to the Sheqing Ban’s lair and into the waiting arms of her conspiratorial grandfather. Meanwhile, Ryuko and her gang have steeled themselves for a final battle, which opens with a visually stunning attack on the Sheqing Ban headquarters. Old scores are settled and personal vendettas culminate in a violent fury, bringing each character’s subplot to a climatic end.

But the main act is reserved for Ryuko who rides her motorcycle throughout the Sheqing Ban’s hideout, upstairs, and out onto a rooftop. The final battle between Situ Long is a great one, involving a helicopter and Ryuko’s motorcycle, speeding toward each other for an explosive finale.

While the plot of Ryuko Volume 2 is a tight, satisfying pulp thriller, Yoshimizu’s art gives the manga a wispy, almost ghostlike quality, that haunts your mind well after you read it.